Pineapple and Pearls is a tough reservation to get right now and we were lucky to get a couple seats at the bar counter. There is a regular dining room and kitchen counter seats that all receive the same tasting menu, but in those seats the only wine service available is through the pairings option. At the bar you have the option of ordering your own bottle(s) or glass however be forewarned that the list is woefully small. The seats are the same as the stools by the kitchen counter and you also get a smaller more intimate group to eat with, however with staggered seating times no one is on the same course at the same time. The restaurant is a sandwich and coffee shop during the day but that service is to end soon and casual dining will be via the restaurant next door, while this location (which opened a year ago in April) will be dinner only. We were greeted with a nice cold glass of bubbly until they were ready to seat us. Once they checked about any dietary restrictions the menu began pretty quickly. All the staff that served us were friendly and helpful with answering questions.
“Afternoon Tea” was the first course and it consisted of a beautiful cup containing rhubarb tea and a 2-tier server with 3 snacks. The tea had been mixed with vermouth, gin, honey and mint. It was strongly flavored and not my favorite. Buckwheat was used in a cracker that held sorrel cream and house cured salmon roe. The crisp cracker was a nice contrast with the explosive salty roe. Fermented kohlrabi was filled with walnut butter into a mild but nice flavor bite. A mini canelé had had some foie gras mousse piped in. It had a perfectly crisp exterior and creamy interior that was wonderfully enhanced with the bit of foie gras. My favorite of the ‘tea’.
Poached shrimp were in a lobster ham broth accented with pickled ramps and XO sauce. The complex flavor was very savory and perfectly cooked shrimp and crisp onions gave nice contrasts to the dish. It left quite a nice lingering flavor in your mouth.
“Surf and Turf” was strip loin meat topped with caviar. The meat was tender and was interesting mixed with this briny caviar. It brought anchovy to my mind.
A French Omelet was served with summer squash, asparagus, black Australian truffle and crispy Mountaineer cheese from Virginia. A mixed cream of parsnip and chive oil surrounded it. It was a wonderful set of bold flavors that worked together. The Mountaineer cheese was fried first to give it it’s crisp texture – what fun.
A supplemental course was offered that evening of smoked and then grilled Bulgarian Royal Osetra caviar served with pickled green papaya and green mango slaw and coconut créme along with a steamed rice bao. They use Virginia Oak for the smoke which they thought enhanced the flavor of the caviar. The ingredients were brought out in a glass box full of smoke and small steaming containers. The caviar was wrapped in banana leaves and then smoked for 20-30 minutes. It was divine. The bao was like a brioche without the butter. We were warned to be careful with the coconut cream as it was quite strong, but it was terrific and I really wanted to lick out its bowl. It worked wonderfully to spread a bit of cream on the bun then add caviar and finally top with some slaw. At $100 for the course it was a pricey add on but worth every penny.
Thinly sliced grapes adorned the piece of fluke which was presented on an outstanding onion soubise with a vouvray and elderflower sauce. Sliced grapes mimicked the appearance of fish scales and added a bit of sweetness to the fish. The fish was a tad more cooked than I’d prefer but all the ingredients worked splendidly together. A good one.
For the next course you were presented with a bowl of confit basil, lovage, green garlic, puffed buckwheat and fennel while two copper pots contained the chanterelles with lovage cavatelli. Additions of umi from Maine and paddlefish caviar were under cover and you had to chose which to add to your pasta. We did one of each and as expected their respective strong tastes impacted the lovely creamy mushroom and pasta combination. The cavatelli were very good as were the mushrooms and I think I might have preferred them without either addition but it was an interesting twist.
A fried squash blossom was presented on white mole on a lovely soft corn tortilla and topped with fried herbs and chayote. Almonds, cashews and golden raisins added to this wonderful mix. The squash blossom was stuffed with ricotta cheese, garlic and chilies. The mole was delicious and when the nice corn tortilla was folded up you had a spectacular taco. A real winner here.
Grilled Australian wagyu beef was covered with an olive tapenade then smoked and served with sherry vinaigrette on top. It was served along side summer vegetables including smoked eggplant puree, cipollini onions, fingerling potatoes and herbs. While the beef was quite tender it was not as marbled as many wagyu and thus didn’t have that burst of beef flavor however it worked well with the sauce and vegetables. Good but not overwhelming course.
A palate cleanser of sun gold tomato sorbet was served on gooseberry jam, olive oil and sea salt. It was nicely sweet with great tomato flavor. Quite nice for this one.
Pecorino pound cake with pine nuts was served with a gelato terrine of the components of pesto – pinenut, basil and olive oil drizzled with olive oil. The pound cake was great and decorated with cheese crisps. The 3 gelato options were all quite true and strongly flavored and I believe I liked them better separately than mixed together. Thumbs up on this one.
The fruit plate to finish the meal included ‘sour pillows’ which were dried pluots covered with sugar, banana popsicles covered with chocolate and broiled figs. The figs were too underripe and so didn’t sing with flavor but their texture was nice. The pluots were fairly tart and needed all that sugar to make it work. You can’t lose with chocolate and banana so all in all a good fruit plate.
With our check we were given a gift bag containing a carrot, ginger and pineapple creamsicle juice and a breakfast bar that was granola with dates and coconut. I didn’t care for the juice but the bar was terrific.